If you have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis (there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis!), you probably know that there are many types of doctors who specialize in working with arthritis patients. Here is a brief overview of some of the doctors that you may have to work with in order to conquer your own personal battle with arthritis.
Rheumatologist: Often referred to as an “arthritis doctor.” A rheumatologist is a specially trained doctor that specializes in diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Rheumatologists diagnose and treat common forms of arthritis, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis. If you are diagnosed with some form of arthritis, chances are you will not be working with a rheumatologist. Most of the time, you will remain under the care of your primary physician, but may occasionally be referred to a rheumatologist. For more information, contact the American College of Rheumatology.
Pediatric Rheumatologist: Also an arthritis doctor, but a pediatric rheumatologist is specially trained to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal diseases in children. Like a regular rheumatologist, a pediatric rheumatologist will probably not be the child’s sole physician, but rather work with the primary physician and team of other doctors.
Podiatrist: Also commonly referred to as foot doctor or foot surgeon. A podiatrist diagnoses and treats conditions affecting the feet or ankles. Most podiatrists are also licensed to do surgery and prescribe drug therapies. A podiatrist’s main goal is to treat inflammation and pain located in the area of the feet. Another main goal is to preserve proper joint function, and to treat various foot conditions such as bunions and calluses.
Physical Therapists or Occupational Therapists: These doctors specialize in helping patients improve their mobility and manage the pain associated with their condition. Physical therapists are specially trained to help patient’s regain mobility, improve flexibility, and manage their pain through specially designed exercises. Many physical therapists are also trained in providing arthritis patients with soft-tissue massages. Occupation therapists provide similar help to patients, but tend to focus on helping patients achieve more comfortable and efficient ways to accomplish everyday tasks. The pain of arthritis can make even simple tasks painful and difficult to execute. An occupational therapist can show arthritis patients easier and more comfortable ways to accomplish the tasks that you may encounter everyday at home and at work. These may include different techniques for doing things more efficiently at work and at home.
Orthopedic Surgeon: Sometimes called orthopedists or “bone doctors,” these doctors are specially trained to evaluate and treat bone disorders. They also examine and treat problems affecting the patient’s tendons, joints, and ligaments. Orthopedic surgeons specialize in joint replacement therapies, arthroscopy, and any surgery related to arthritis. Most of the time, another doctor will have to refer you to an orthopedic surgeon if you appear to be a candidate for special surgery. There is also a special pediatric orthopedic surgeon that is can help treat juvenile arthritis. There are also sports medicine orthopedic surgeons that are specialized in helping treat people who have suffered sports injuries.